You finally landed your “dream” agent. You did the hard work and crafted your manuscript. Created a stellar proposal. Comported yourself with excellence during the phone/Zoom calls. Congratulations. Now you can sit back and let the agent do their magic. All you have to do is start planning for your retirement with all the dough that is going to flow in your direction. Right?
Sorry. Connecting with a literary agent is only the next important step in your journey. To have a long-term career as a writer, you’ll need to continue to build your platform a little more each month. You still need to improve your writing craft in order to communicate your material (fiction or nonfiction). And more.
What you do have with an agent is a crucial business partner. An expert who can help you navigate the labyrinth of the publishing journey. Someone who knows where the speed bumps and potholes are before you hit them. A proverbial shock absorber (!!!).
It is true that you can now have your agent shop your book project to the right publishers. Our agency has worked hard, so when a proposal from one of us is placed in front of the right editor, they will hopefully say, “Oh good! Wonder what they have for me to review today?” Rather than, “Oh no, another big waste of my time.”
But even then, it may not capture any publisher’s attention. It happens, I’m sorry to report. There are times when we send a proposal out to 20 major publishers and editors and get 100% “no thanks” in return.
But all that means is that ONE project didn’t connect … TODAY. There might be another idea that may work better … TOMORROW. Having that agent on your team means your chances for tomorrow are better than they would be without the agent.
To overuse a sports metaphor, your journey is more of an iron-man competition than a 40-yard dash. As such, you’d be wise to have the right coach, trainer, and manager in your circle.
Great to know, since navigating alone is like sailing a sea without ever reaching land.
I was just listening to a podcast about Captain Cook’s first journey across the sea in 1767. Imagine navigating the waters of the South Pacific with only the stars and not knowing any of land masses!
They thought Australia was a large land mass (not an island) that was so big it would balance all the land in the northern hemisphere.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Thanks for the info, Steve. I know that having an agent is like a marriage, of sorts.
There have been times where that metaphor is a good one. But there are other times where it is NOT with a capital N. O. T.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Yeah, this makes sense. Just because the publishing world is easier for an agent to navigate than for me, doesn’t mean it is easy to navigate. Finding just the right match can take time, regardless of the skills of the person representing you.
So true. As I like to say, “This is why we call it ‘work.'”
Steve, I had to smile at your metaphor, “Your journey is more of an iron-man competition than a 40-yard dash.” As a one-time Iron-man athlete myself, I know that without having the right “inner-circle,” it is almost impossible to finish the grueling competition. With an effective team, however, you do better than you ever thought possible, and you actually amaze yourself that you completed your goal! 🤩
I thought iron-man would be more apt than a “simple” marathon…since that is the normal cliche. Suzy, you picked on the subtlety of the difference. Well done!
One thing I’ve heard is that accept rates rise as you make it further along in the process. That is, an agented author looking for an editor is more likely (all other things being equal) to get accepted than an unagented author looking for an agent.
Steve, is that accurate?
(As with everything, this is all statistics, so “your mileage may vary”. But I personally find it helpful to at least a rough idea of what the odds are, just to help set expectations.)
I wish there was a way to quantify this business. But there isn’t.
We’ve had long time, heavily published, authors whose new book idea did not sell to anyone.
And I’ve seen authors who are unagented secure a deal on their own.
The best way to describe it is the phrase, “Success breeds success.” Thus crossing one success makes the next one that much more likely to happen. But there is never a guarantee.
I even had a case where a publisher made a contract offer on a book. A day later they withdrew the offer (just before we accepted it) saying they had second thoughts.
Another time a contract had been drawn up but during the negotiations things soured and the author chose to walk away.
Do this long enough and you’ll end up with stories, like I have, to illustrate every exception to the rule.
Thanks, appreciate the response.
Depend on agents I lost many times and waste my times on freelance.